U.N. Slams U.S. Anti-Terror Drone Program

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 4, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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LAURA INGRAHAM, GUEST HOST: In the "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight: the United Nations takes aim at America's drone missile program. The anti-terror effort has reportedly killed hundreds of militants in Pakistan. But the U.N. says: "Because drone operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote auto feed, there is a risk of developing a PlayStation mentality to killing."

With us now, Mark Levine, a liberal radio talk show host. It's always conservative radio talk show host, so we got you here today.


INGRAHAM: How are you? Good to see you. Where do you stand on this? Obviously, we've been able to take out some top problems, terrorist problems in Pakistan, in very remote areas. There has been some collateral damage but overall the numbers, I think 50 in the last — last couple of years. What's your beef with it?

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LEVINE: Well, the report doesn't specifically say drones are bad, to be clear. It just says that we need accountability for them. We need to have legal standards. We need to know who we're killing, who we're not killing. We need to make sure that the killings are killing the right people and not the wrong people.

INGRAHAM: How does that play out? We need standards. That means, what, the American military has to go to an international panel and say...

LEVINE: No, no.

INGRAHAM: ...this is the group we're trying to target in the mountains of Afghanistan?

INGRAHAM: That's not how I read the report. The report goes through and talks about the fact that the United States has set up standards. It wants to know what those standards are. And as I read the report — maybe I have a liberal reading of the report, but as I read the report, they don't want to have to say, "We're going to kill the No. 3 of Al Qaeda tomorrow." That's not what they're looking for. They're looking for us to say that our standards are based on some kind of reasonably objective way to be sure we've got the right person, not the wrong person.

INGRAHAM: Well, there are going to be mistakes, are there not? I mean...

LEVINE: There will be mistakes. And it also goes on in the report to say that if there are mistakes, we should have remedial matters. That's really not that controversial that me.

INGRAHAM: The Obama administration — are you surprised? — has been carrying on the Bush tradition and really kind of amped it up a little bit, right?

LEVINE: More. So you may remember the debates. Barack Obama said he was going to take it to Pakistan, and McCain said don't do it. And Barack Obama said, "No, I'm going to because that's"...

INGRAHAM: Is that causing liberal angst, that among the president's most popular policies are his approach to terrorism — fighting terrorism, going after, you know, the surge was popular at the time. Maybe less so today. But that's carrying on the Bush mentality, whatever you want to call it. Does that give angst to liberals? I'm treating you like an endangered species, which you may be after this next election.

LEVINE: There are definitely people on the left, the Kucinich wing of the Democratic Party, as it were, that would cause a tremendous amount of angst. I think for the regular, mainstream liberals of the Democratic Party, as long as the president is smart about it, as long as we're killing the right people and not the wrong people, we're OK with it. We want to make sure that a lot of things aren't done like Bush did, like secret prisons and torturing people that were innocent. Or spying on people...

INGRAHAM: How about the fact that the president has said that we can detain people indefinitely who are enemy combatants, who are the worst of the worst? I can't remember if that's his exact phrasing, but he did say and this is — The New York Times wrote about it — that we can detain people indefinitely. What do you think about, a liberal radio talk show host, a liberal president saying we can detain the worst of the worst indefinitely?

LEVINE: First of all, we cannot do that to American citizens. The Supreme Court has been clear. That's what George Bush tried to do. Obama is against it; the Supreme Court is against it. We're not going to do it for the American citizens. For non-American citizens, I think we have to go by the rules of war. There are laws of war. You can hold prisoners of war. It doesn't have to be someone you capture on the battlefield attacking American troops.

INGRAHAM: What's the battlefield today? How about a cafe where someone tries to explode, you know, Americans...

LEVINE: That would count for me. But yes, if they're trying to explode something at the cafe. Not if they're meeting at a cafe with a known terrorist leader. That's not enough.

INGRAHAM: Now, one thing to think about what's happened now in Afghanistan, how intractable it seems to be. We're not making the progress some thought we would have made, although the surge is, you know, almost complete. The number...

LEVINE: The real danger is in Pakistan, as we both know.

INGRAHAM: Right. But — but when we think about the U.N. saying this is going to encourage PlayStation mentality, well then, what doesn't encourage PlayStation mentality? I mean, I've been up in these Black Hawk helicopters. I've been in these armored — uparmored vehicles and armored vehicles. You know, they're doing e-mail. They're doing infrared targeting. That's warfare today. Much of warfare. It's — it's high technology. Snipers killing someone from 1,000 yards. You don't necessarily see, you know — see everything you want to see, but you take down your target.

LEVINE: I don't think it's the high technology the United Nations is complaining about.

INGRAHAM: PlayStation mentality. Their track record, the U.N.'s track record.

LEVINE: I'm not here to defend the United Nations.

INGRAHAM: Well, you shouldn't because their track record on human rights, what they've done to Israel is an outrage.

LEVINE: I agree with you. I agree with you. But their point is that when we are targeting someone from thousands of miles away from a bunker in Atlanta, rather than a bunker in Afghanistan, it's more likely we're going to make a mistake. And in that respect, they're right.

INGRAHAM: Do we have a right to determine our own national security interests and pursue them aggressively?

LEVINE: Well, there are international human rights standards. Yes, in general under American law, I absolutely agree with you. But here's the problem. If we go beyond international human rights standards, it won't be against our Constitution. But what it will do is it will tell other states throughout the world they can do the same thing.

INGRAHAM: Are you still — are you still standing by the mentality that if we shut down Gitmo, they'll like us? Because I can't believe anyone ever argued that, and the world is probably more dangerous than it was a year ago.

LEVINE: We do need to shut down Gitmo because Gitmo is a symbol of American illegal action. It is illegal.

INGRAHAM: Wildly effective.

LEVINE: No more effective than a prison in Kansas or New York.

INGRAHAM: If we stop drone attacks tomorrow, do you think the Taliban — you know, we want these girls to go to school. We want — we're going to give up aims on Pakistan?

LEVINE: Not the Taliban. But here's the thing, Laura, as you know. A lot of people that are sympathetic, not the hard-line Al Qaeda people.

INGRAHAM: They don't care about that.


LEVINE: And the more civilians we kill, the more terrorists sometimes we create. If we can kill the bad guys and not kill the civilians, well, let's let people join the bad guys.

INGRAHAM: Given what we've done though, and given the enormity of this anti-terror challenge, we've been incredibly meticulous, possibly to the detriment of our the troops' safety — our own troops' safety.

LEVINE: I think we've been meticulous. I think that Israel has been meticulous. And I don't think the world gives us enough credit for it. That being said...

INGRAHAM: ...as I thought.

LEVINE: That being said — that being said, we have to have standards...

INGRAHAM: All right.

LEVINE: ...because we are a democracy. We have to be better than this.

INGRAHAM: Standards are determined by the voters. Anyway, Mark, I appreciate it.